NAME: Arthur Casas
OCCUPATION: Arthur is considered one of Brazil’s leading architects. He is head of Studio Arthur Casas, which is known for residential and commercial projects, as well as furniture design.
NEIGHBORHOOD: Higienópolis, São Paulo, Brazil
São Paulo’s true beauty is best seen one building at a time. Pacaembu, where I live, and nearby Higienópolis, where I’ve built my studio, are especially rich in architectural treasures. These neighborhoods are some of the greenest and most pleasant in town. Here you can still stroll from a park to a café, although I’ve got to admit that, like most locals, I drive from place to place.
The coffee barons were the first to arrive in Higienópolis, in the 19th century. They built grand palazzos. Some of these remain intact today, but as those families fell from power, their vast properties got chopped up into smaller lots. In the 1940s and ’50s, a growing intellectual middle class commissioned first-rate architects to build modernist-style houses that are real gems, most in Pacaembu. The only pity is that, as the city grew more dangerous, tall walls were built around many of them. The house on Rua Ceará that was designed by Jayme Fonseca Rodrigues, one of Brazil’s greatest art deco architects, is a lucky exception and can still be admired by passersby.
Another great building is the Gregori Warchavchik−designed townhouse on Itápolis Street, known as the Casa Modernista because of its striking horizontal and vertical lines. Inside, there once was furniture by the Ukrainian-Brazilian architect himself and paintings by the great Tarsila do Amaral; one of the first visitors was the Swiss architect Le Corbusier.
Unlike in other parts of town, here gentrification was done right. The first buildings to go up in Higienópolis are shining examples of paulistano art deco design. One of the most interesting is the Prudência, by Rino Levi. I got to know it intimately when I was commissioned to redo the interiors in one of its apartments. The façade, with a curved footbridge leading to the door, is stunning.
São Paulo is messy and chaotic. I try, in my work, to build places that offer a haven of peace amid this chaos. Some of my favorite spots in Higienópolis have that same quality: They bring me peace of mind. That’s true of the Instituto Moreira Salles, for example, where I like to go to photography exhibitions, and the park next to it, Parque Buenos Aires. The Vermelho art gallery is also sheltered from the loud rumbling of the streets, and its inner courtyard invites reflection.
This city is known as a restaurant-crazed place where everyone seems to be a food expert. Higienópolis has its share of worthy tables. Carlota, always so cheery and with its welcoming staff, was the pioneer. It opened more than a decade ago, and everybody knows it. But Ici Bistrô is the one I go to most, because I like the consistent quality of the food and the service. Another plus is that it’s close to the Cemitério da Consolação, a very old cemetery that boasts more art than many large museums.
Yes, in Higienópolis, even at the graveyard there’s something worthy of a photo.
See all of Arthur Casas’s favorite places in Higienópolis. Photo by Tatiana Cardeal. This appeared in the October 2013 issue.